How to Demotivate Your Employees in 4 Easy Steps 3

By Chris Simmons

Many managers, supervisors, and leaders around the world are skilled in a classic “blunder cluster” known as The Four Methods of Demotivation. These time-tested methods are virtually guaranteed to increase employee dissatisfaction, send annual turnover into the double-digits, and decrease productivity. Note: Methods are NOT necessarily listed in order of demotivational effectiveness!

1. Subvert decisions. This practice is so common that employees who haven’t been “bypassed” by a supervisor are considered “endangered species.” Managers can also issue orders to subordinates that contradict guidance provided by that individual’s immediate supervisor. Done often enough, the undercut supervisor starts deferring decisions to upper management, leaving the employee confused about who is in charge.
2. “Shooting From The Hip.” Supervisors can also stifle motivation by making a decision on a newly-presented problem “on the spot.” Done correctly, hip-shooting is inaccurate, ineffective, and includes employees who should have NO say in either the problem or its solution.
3. Making what should be a collective decision, alone and in advance. In this scenario, the supervisor seeks input from those employees responsible for implementing a decision, impacted by a decision, or simply whose insights would be informative. Subsequently, employees come to understand that the solicitation was an empty gesture and as a result, offer little commitment to the endeavor.
4. Interfering. Delegation is supposed to put projects into the hands of people qualified to execute them. These qualified subordinates are then supposed to be held accountable for the project. However, for those managers unwilling to let go, interfering is best implemented by issuing clarifications, providing periodic follow-on instructions, requiring impossible suspenses and demanding an unreasonable number of status reports.

Note to all newly promoted supervisors and managers; please understand that this is a weak attempt at sarcasm and not a policy document recommendation.

3 comments

  1. I think my very first boss must have read this post (back 20 years ago!). She had a clear mission: all blame to pass downward through her to subordinates; all credit to go to her; all responsibility to go up to “anybody else”.

    Luckily my 2nd boss was the most inspiring, greatest manager I ever worked with and transformed my experience of what work could be.

  2. Most of my supervisors have been good, especially those with experience in the actual work. We had one put in place by management who had no experience in translation and no idea of what the job entailed. She came out swinging, trying to set up a new workflow process and new responsibilities that did nothing to make us more productive and everything to demoralize us. It was a hellish year, until she backed off and let us carry on as before.

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